‘London councils unite to reveal pockets of poverty’ by Deven Ghelani was first published in The Municipal Journal on 15 April 2019.
Local authorities are using the power of collaboration to reveal London’s poverty hotspots, identify families who need support and deliver services where they’re most useful. Policy in Practice’s Director Deven Ghelani takes us inside the biggest project of its kind.
Building a Living Standards Index for London
Eighteen London borough councils have been collaborating for two years to bring together important administrative data on the financial security of 550,000 low-income families. Analysis of their data reveals where London’s poverty hotspots are and how authorities might better support struggling households.
The project is funded by the Trust for London and the figures that result from it have been brought to life in the new publicly-available Living Standards Index for London. The Index’s interactive map allows anyone to explore where London’s poverty hotspots are and the types of households affected.
The Index shows the actual financial circumstances of low-income families month-to-month, drawing on housing benefit and council tax support data. Now councils can track how these families in their areas are coping, or not, and get support to them more effectively than ever before.
The Index shows the proportion of low-income families who can’t pay the bills in each borough, and even down to each ward. Across London, 15% of low-income families face a cash shortfall each week, up from 12% of families in 2016. Our analysis shows that families with someone with a disability are a key group who are struggling to make ends meet. We project that, if nothing changes, the number of low-income families who can’t pay the bills in London will rise by 61% to 238,000.
The ward-by-ward breakdown allows Londoners and their councils to see which wards have been hardest hit by the rollout of Universal Credit, rising living costs and frozen benefits.